“This country manufactures only one product powerful enough to interrupt the greatest health and economic crisis it’s probably ever faced. We make racism, the American virus and the underlying condition of black woe. And the rage against it is strong enough to compel people to risk catching one disease in order to combat the other — in scores and scores of American cities, in cities around the world. They’re a tandem now, the pandemic bold-underlining-italicizing what’s endemic to us. The underfunded hospitals, appalling factory conditions and unequal education were readily evident last year, before Covid-19. Now, the inadequacies and inequalities expedite death and compound estrangement. The low-wage workers have been deemed essential yet remain paid inessentially. The numbers of black, Latino and Indigenous people infected, deceased and unemployed are out of whack with their share of the population. And the president has yet to offer his condolences, in earnest.”
The Kerner Commission (1968)
Here’s a .pdf of the report. From the introduction, which I would like to read blind with my students in the fall and have them guess at the origins of the document and try and locate it in time.
“This is our basic conclusion: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal.”
“This alternative will require a commitment to national action–compassionate, massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful and the richest nation on this earth. From every American it will require new attitudes, new understanding, and, above all, new will.”
“What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget–is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
“It is time now to turn with all the purpose at our command to the major unfinished business of this nation. It is time to adopt strategies for action that will produce quick and visible progress. It is time to make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens-urban and rural, white and black, Spanish-surname, American Indian, and every minority group.”